Labels: Disdain them — except one
Bob Langert
Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:45

A longtime friend told me he was Christian and couldn’t support Democrats because it violated his principles. Then I heard a news update that Republicans were trying to ax Obamacare. I think I’m an Independent.

I’ve been spending more time contemplating the racial problems our country faces. I admire the friends and family that have posted Black Lives Matter signs. I just read “White Fragility,” and it infused me with thoughts that challenged my privileged white life. I hadn’t thought I was a racist, but I now realize I am because I’m part of a systemic white-dominant society by default. Truly. And it’s got to change, including me.

I’ve thought of myself as young. But now I get up in the morning and hobble about until I’ve warmed up my body to stand straight.

Labels. Can’t stand them. Listening to the radio the other day I heard an ad that said, “All of us use social media way too much.” How do they know that about me? I’m not too married to Twitter.

I self-label myself as “athletic.” Yet I played a bocce match the other day against an 80-year-old woman who’d recently had surgery on her arm and had to toss the bocce ball with her odd hand. I lost. By a lot.

There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’

Another good friend of mine told me on the phone that he never thought I was a radical, “so liberal,” after reading my book about corporate sustainability (“The Battle to Do Good”). I don’t think of myself as liberal, but I’m finding in my daily conversations with friends that maybe I really am. Just yesterday, a good friend of mine said he doesn’t like the politics of Starbucks. And I’m thinking, “This is a company that is really trying to do good.”

I passed on a very interesting New York Times article about health care to a buddy. He told me the article was narrow-minded and wrong because — well, it’s from the New York Times. He gets his news from Fox. We’re still buddies, although sometimes I wonder where to draw the line on sharing similar values. He said I’m a CNN person. I do watch/listen to it the most.

I find myself labeling others and am ashamed that I do. He is a bully. She is slovenly. And I thought I was a good Catholic.

There is one label I genuinely like and admire: “I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.”

I started this work by addressing the Big Mac polystyrene clamshell some 32 years ago. Finding the good intersection of business and society has grabbed my heart and mind ever since.

But now I am mostly retired. It’s yet another label I disdain. If anything, I feel like I’m accelerating, not stepping back. Even though I made the choice to wind down my sustainability career, I have lots yet to give to my family, friends, neighbors and community.

The couple of Myers-Briggs tests I’ve taken have labeled me an introvert working in an extroverted field. My safe haven is to be alone. But what I find I miss the most about working in the day-to-day of corporate sustainability is the gobs of good people I got to know, share, laugh, commiserate with and share a passion to change the world for the better.

You are my good friends. I like being with you.

Which brings me to my very least favorite label: “Retired from GreenBiz.” My regular writing for GreenBiz has seen its better days. I love writing about sustainability, but now that I’m not in the frontlines, I find I have little to write about. So this is my final column.

I love the GreenBiz community, starting with Joel Makower, who I met 30 years ago when I bought a bunch of his books for McDonald’s people. His integrity and caring attitude permeate the whole organization. John Davies is full of bright insight and even better wit. Twenty-four hours at a GreenBiz Executive Network meeting was like filling up the tank with high-octane gas. I was ready to rock and roll after every meeting I attended.

Everyone I meet at GreenBiz is an awesome person. How do you do it, GreenBiz?

Thank you for the opportunity to write a column with my thoughts for the past five years.

As you can tell, I’m not one for being labeled. It irks me. But you can label me a “big sap” for how much I care about the entire sustainability movement — and the special people that make it happen.

Pull Quote
There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’


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